Saturday, 13 December 2014

Bermondsey BSAC xmas do - 10th December 2014

Twenty divers and partners gathered on a windy Wednesday evening for the club's annual xmas meal and social. Another three joined us later on. This year we returned to Jaflong on Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, where we'd had our xmas do two years ago.

Prizes were given out on the night by Pat the Chair, including the Leaky Suit Award for Steve B, the International Traveller Award for the well-equipped Colin, and the Bermondsey BSAC Blog 2014 Magnum Opus Award for Jane and her forthcoming blog piece. On a more serious note, the top gong of the evening went to Kim. In choosing him as the second ever recipient of the Barry Maisey Award, the club recognised Kim's contributions this year, his help with training, and his organising of the successful Falmouth trip.The Barry Maisey Award is given every year to a member (not on committee) who has gone the extra mile for the club.

Colin did a fine job in organising this trip to Jaflong. Thanks, Colin, for organising, collecting deposits, and especially for sorting out the bill at the end.

A core group of revellers continued to The Bishop afterwards, for further refreshment.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Bermondsey BSAC committee meeting – 10th November 2014

In attendance: Pat, Teresa, Ken, Victor
Apologies: Ross, Brett

Xmas do

  • To be held at Jaflong, Weds 10/12/2014.
  • Pat to confirm with Colin and draft email.
  • There will be no pool session that evening.
  • Committee to consider appropriate 2014 awards for presentation at xmas do.

Next year’s committee

  • Some club members (who have not been on committee before) have expressed an interest.
  • New posts can be created to help spread the work of the committee, such as Membership Secretary, Website Maintainer, Recruitment Officer, Assistant Training Officer and Assistant Diving Officer. These could be co-opted by the next committee, and need not necessarily be subject to elections at the AGM.

AGM

  • To be held Weds 04/02/2014, at Cherry Garden School.
  • There will be no pool session that evening.
  • Elections to be held for Chair, Diving Officer, Treasurer, Secretary, Equipment Officer and Training Officer.
  • Motions and nominations to be invited in the new year.
  • Committee will not be proposing motions to discontinue the club’s joint membership discount, or to change the £45 per diver cost of dives to match actual cost.

Diving

  • Agreed to add 2 Shoreham dives to the 2015 dive calendar. Pat to speak to skipper.
  • 2015 dive list needs to go online. Reminder email also needed, as take-up has been slow so far.
  • Email needs to be drafted, explaining how individual dive days will be organised. Club members will need to inform the club they are joining these dives.
  • Agreed joint trips may be run with other clubs next year. 2015 dive list will be shared with other clubs once Bermondsey members have had longer to sign up.
  • Ken’s Red Sea trip may not happen next year, due to a ruptured appendix (not Ken’s). Jane is gauging interest in a Gozo trip. Lee has proposed a Dieppe trip.
  • Mevagissey trip may yet be added to the 2015 dive list in the new year.

Recruitment and membership

  • Victor to design flyer.
  • Club to run stalls at county shows and other events next year (Southwark Park, Goose Green, Burgess Park etc), subject to dates and cost.

Training

  • Completion of Ocean Diver training is key to retaining members. This will be prioritised.
  • Suggested that drysuit use should be allowed earlier on in training, again to help keep members interested in cold water diving. Wraysbury and Vobster Quay offer drysuit hire.
  • Victor to look into club’s capacity for snorkel training, and reply to recent emails.
  • Agreed training record needs to be updated, but it doesn’t need to be online.
  • Noted that club has lost instructors this year, which has reduced capacity for training.

Barry Award

  • The 2015 recipient will be [to be revealed at xmas do]. 

Website and blog

  • A decent number of blog entries have been posted this year, albeit mostly written by a small number of people.
  • Pieces are expected from Jane (St Abbs) and Brett (cenotes). Ken to write about whale sharks.
  • Agreed calendar should be taken off website – better to have no calendar, than one that makes it look like the club is inactive.

Club accounts

  • Ken reported that the club accounts are looking OK. Members will be chased for outstanding money. Pool has been paid for until the end of the year.
  • Eastbourne trip (06/09/2014) was costly to the club.
  • Agreed to resume charging for post-training club kit hire.

Socials

  • Agreed to run a winter social – bowling at Surrey Quays in February (avoiding half term).
  • Summer barbecue will be held at Teresa’s on 04/07/2015.
  • Teresa to look into Lee Valley white water rafting.

Pool

  • Pool activities to be organised over winter, including skills practice.
  • Weekly emails to remind members that club kit is available for students wanting to practice skills, subject to availability and supervision.

Club’s 60th anniversary

  • Agreed to organise dives at 60 sites during the year (2016).


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Belize - 20th-30th September 2014

by Victor

Having bid farewell to the rest of the group (who were off home that Saturday evening), I made my way southwards from Playa del Carmen, Mexico to the largely car-free island of Caye Caulker, Belize. Factual stuff for anyone planning a similar journey: this involved a taxi into town from the hotel, a 4.5 hour (294 peso) bus to Chetumal, a shared taxi to the ferry terminal, a wait at the Mexican customs/immigration office (and a 306 peso exit fee), and a 3pm (actually 3.30pm) water taxi to Caye Caulker (612.50 pesos) which stopped at San Pedro for an hour of Belizean customs/immigration business (and a BZ$2.50 admin fee) and which eventually arrived at the island just after 7pm local time. After travelling all day I was glad to be welcomed by Louise at Maxhapan Cabanas (highly recommended), located a few blocks south of the centre of town. The following day involved colourful Belizean Independence Day celebrations, and checking in with Frenchie’s Diving Services to confirm the dives tomorrow were on. They were.

You’ll have seen pictures of the Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef, off the coast of Belize. It’s a well-known dive site, very busy during peak season. This was the low season and some dive centres on the island were closed, but Frenchie’s were still running trips every other day (3 dives, includes entry to the marine reserve, breakfast and lunch (no veggy alternative offered), depart 6am, arrive back 4pm-ish, BZ$480). 9 divers and 1 snorkeller boarded Reef Shark III that day (crewed by Carlos, Jose, Joey and Mike) for the bumpy 2 hour ride (top tip: slap on the suncream and sit at the back of the boat unless you want a sore bum for the rest of the week). NB - a recent Tanked Up article stated that whoever you book with, you’ll end up diving with Amigos del Mar or Aqua Scuba – not true! This particular boat has no toilet, but had enough space for us (it’s a 11.5m boat), a dry cupboard, soft drinks, melon, biscuits and an excellent rum punch on the way back. The crew regularly checked if anyone needed a toilet stop (which involved jumping in and relieving oneself in the water, or using the toilets on land between dives 2 and 3). We were the first dive boat at the Blue Hole that day. Divers were split not into buddy pairs but into a more experienced group (with 2 guides, Jose and Joey), and a smaller, less experienced group who had to stay at shallower depths.

Is the Blue Hole spectacular? On the surface, no. We could see the edges of the 300m-wide dark area of water, but really you’d need to fly above to properly appreciate the roundness and size of this natural feature. In the water, however, it made for a good dive, although the stalactites would perhaps be more impressive to divers who hadn’t spent the previous week diving cenotes. Visibility was good at 20m, but you obviously can’t see from one wall of the sinkhole to the other. The thing that made this dive worth doing was the 8 (possibly more) Caribbean grey reef sharks that swam close by throughout the 26-minute dive. They were incredible, up to 2m in length, and a total distraction from the underwater landscape we were there to see. And at 43m, the narcosis was very pleasant (or “irie”, as Joey put it).

Dives 2 (Half Moon Wall) and 3 (The Aquarium) that day were more scenic, and also revealed interesting wildlife (more sharks, an octopus, large stingrays, moray eels, trunk fish etc). These longer dives were more interesting for me than the Blue Hole. Waters were as warm as Mexico (29 degrees), and the surface interval before dive 3 was brilliant – we stopped at Half Moon Caye, a beautiful sandy island with coconut trees, turquoise waters, hermit crabs, iguanas, and a red-footed booby colony.

If you’ve only got one spare day in Belize, this pricey 3-dive daytrip is worth doing (mainly for dives 2 and 3, and the surface interval), but nobody needs to lose any sleep if they don’t manage to tick the Blue Hole off their bucket list. It’s a decent dive, but not the best dive on the planet, and of course sharks can’t be guaranteed on every visit. What would be brilliant, I think, would be a Belize liveaboard, perhaps spending a week diving around the Lighthouse Reef, Turneffe Atoll and other locations along the coast, avoiding the other dive boats and the bumpy ride out from Caye Caulker or San Pedro, and visiting places like the Blue Hole at the crack of dawn. There’s an idea for the 2018 dive calendar.

The next day involved 2 more dives with Frenchie’s, on Esmerelda Reef and the Cypress Tunnel, from the same boat (9am start, BZ$207). These were great dives of 46 and 50 minutes, very scenic, and with plenty of nurse sharks following us around. It was particularly interesting to see how shoals of fish moved into tight balls when a shark was nearby. Our surface interval was spent at San Pedro.

My dive kit needed to dry on the Wednesday, so I joined a 4-hour snorkel trip with Reef Friendly Tours (http://reeffriendlytours.com/ ) to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. I was attracted to Captain Amado’s outfit as he is one of the only skippers who refuses to chum the waters to attract critters, and doesn’t encourage snorkellers to touch sharks. Other outfits proudly display pictures of guides and tourists cradling nurse sharks in their arms (turning these animals upside down immobilises them), which makes for a great holiday snap, but isn’t good for the sharks. This evidence of mishandling of wildlife unfortunately didn’t surprise me – the day before I witnessed a dive guide grabbing a nurse shark by the tail fin, much to its displeasure. Amado’s trip demonstrated that feeding, coercion and physical contact with animals is not necessary – our visit to Shark and Ray Alley in the marine reserve brought the 5 of us close to dozens of the animals. The other 2 sites we visited (“The Channel” and a wreck in shallow waters) revealed a huge spotted eagle ray, a lion fish (an invasive species here), lots of turtles munching on sea grass, and thousands upon thousands of horse eye jacks, sergeant majors and other fish common to the reefs that the other daytrip boats weren’t visiting. Best of all, on the journey back to Caye Caulker, Amado spotted something in the water, suggested we jump in again, and for the next 15 minutes we were snorkelling close to 2 huge manatees, incredibly graceful in the water. Their cow-like manner and old man’s faces make them very endearing. And as if that wasn’t enough, 2 bottlenose dolphins swam alongside the boat not long after we got out of the water. Best snorkel trip ever.

A half hour, BZ$25 water taxi took me to Belize City the next day, and the rest of my time in this country involved exploring that city’s attractions (allow half a day, then move on), a few days in the jungle/mountains (including a worthwhile day trip to the Mayan ruins at Tikal in Guatemala), and seeing some incredible landscapes and waterfalls, as well as spider monkeys, howler monkeys, tarantulas, agoutis, racoons, butterflies, vultures, hummingbirds and super-rare orange-breasted falcons. The bus from Belize City back to Chetumal took 5 hours (including time at the border where fees of BZ$37.50 were payable, plus an advance payment of the 306 peso Mexican departure tax), departed at 10.13am (NB – bus schedule information can be hard to come by in Belize – I was advised to just turn up at the bus station and wait for the next colourful schoolbus to Chetumal or Corozal) and cost BZ$15. Another bus from Chetumal took 4 hours (170 pesos) to reach Tulum, where I stayed at L’Hotelito (recommended). I was lucky enough to sneak in 3 more cheeky cenote dives (The Pit, which was incredible, and 2 dives at Dream Gate which were stalactastic), saw  a snake and the stunning seafront Mayan ruins, ate very well, sent postcards, and made use of the excellent beaches.

4 weeks well spent. Heartily recommended.

Weymouth - 20th-21st September 2014

by Pat

The club visited Weymouth for the second time this year on the 20th and 21st September, diving from the RW Two skippered by Woody.

The weather was kind to us, as were the tides with civilised 9.30 am starts both days.

On the Saturday the weather was flat calm with the first dive on the wrecks of Chesil Cove offering for the lucky one the chance to do 3 wrecks on one dive. The Gertrude, Fennel and Myrtledene wrecks are shallow at 15m, offering plenty of time and visibility, and plenty of life was to be found. The second dive of the day was the Benny, an old favourite.

Topside there was a three-masted sailing ship motoring around the bay. It was a pity the sails had not been hoisted they always look at their best under sail.

Everyone gathered for dinner on Saturday night at the Nothe Tavern, giving us the chance to relive the day and exaggerate the size of everything seen.

The weather on Sunday was not as sunny and there was a slight swell but not enough to for anyone to feed the fish. We dived on the bow of the Black Hawk off Lulworth. Although broken up it is an interesting dive with discernible bits of ship and plenty of life. Lobsters, crabs conger and many other fish were spotted.

For the second dive we went scalloping on the Lulworth Banks – always a good place to find a tasty treat to take home.

The weekend was enjoyed by all especially Ishka (pictured in Chesil Cove) and Jörn for whom it was their first trip to Weymouth.

Mexico - 6th-21st September 2014

Jill and Ken organised an excellent 2-week trip for 8 of us, with roughly half our time spent on Cozumel (off Mexico’s Caribbean coast) and the other half based back on the mainland in Playa del Carmen. We flew with Virgin Atlantic, stayed at the Mallorca Hotel in Cancun on the first night, stayed at Occidental all-inclusive hotels for the rest of the trip, and made use of Canada Transfers. Dives were booked with Pro Dive Mexico (http://www.prodivemex.com/ ). Our visit coincided with Mexican Independence celebrations, and included a day trip to the Mayan sites of Chichen Itza and Coba. Highlights of the trip included:

  • diving the clear, warm waters (teaming with interesting wildlife) on the west side of Cozumel,
  • the 6 dives we did in the cenotes (sinkholes, providing access to vast and beautiful underwater caverns filled with gin-clear water) at various locations on the Yucatan peninsula,
  • iguanas, tortoises, land-dwelling crabs, agoutis, wall-climbing frogs and other exotic (to us) wildlife wandering around the hotel grounds on Cozumel,
  • the enthusiastic Pro Dive staff on Cozumel and at the cenotes, and
  • the grub we had at the Kinta restaurant in San Miguel.

Whale shark trip by Victor

Not yet adjusted to the different time zone we found ourselves in, several of us woke early and found each other at Samboras café, a few blocks away from our hotel. Later that morning, Csaba and his colleagues from Eco Colors (http://www.ecotravelmexico.com/whale-shark-cancun-tour.php , booked through Pro Dive) picked us up for our whale shark snorkelling trip.

This was the tail end of the whale shark season. In September these massive creatures (the largest fish in the sea) move on to other waters. On this trip, although we didn’t have to wait long before seeing the sharks, their scarcity meant that several boats converged at the point where they had been spotted, resulting in a rather chaotic scene with dozens of snorkelers in the water at the same time, all attempting to get a glimpse. The 3 sharks we saw were moving fast, but most of us managed to get a good view of these impressive creatures. We each got into the water 2 or 3 times.

The boat and its crew were good. The trip included lunch, which we had while moored at Isla Mujeres on the way back. I didn’t see any feeding, coercion or harassment of the whale sharks, which is good, however the crew told us that the sharks don’t normally move that quickly through the water, and that this might have been a sign that they were starting to be bothered by the number of snorkelers present. Csaba later sent us a good video of the trip.


Cozumel by Daniel

Our arrival at the resort – the Occidental Grand – was fairly painless. We paired up and signed our lives away in exchange for room keys and beach towel tokens. There was little signage around the place so finding our room was an exercise in trial-and-error in the 30-degree heat but we managed.

The room itself was very spacious and air conditioned which was great for drying clothing between activities.

We dived with Pro Dive who had a “shop” onsite; making the diving very low-stress. We basically turned up each morning and got on the boat. Our two guides, Martin and Benjamin, were very enthusiastic and clearly knew what they were doing.

There followed six days of two dives a day on various reefs. They threw in a couple of wall dives with some great swim-throughs and we asked to do the wreck that was nearby. The wreck could be seen from the surface – one of the boat crew pointed it out – which was a first for me.

The reefs were breathtaking. Literally! I had to spend 15 minutes on two of the dives breathing off the guide's octopus due to my air consumption. Huge sponge and coral formations of all kinds sheltering a huge variety of fish and marine life. Barracuda, turtles and nurse sharks rank among the celebrities that featured on our visit. We also saw several small toadfish, a species endemic to Cozumel's reefs, so it was great to see some of those.

We did a night dive midweek to mix things up. A fun dive with plenty of different life. We saw several eels and a couple of octopi (among other things).

On dry land we got to enjoy buffet breakfasts, lunch and dinners. We sat for lunch and breakfast overlooking the sea where we watched several storm systems move across the horizon over the course of the week. We made good use of the two pools, the gym and the various bars located around the resort. We had a couple of meals at the a-la-carte restaurants for good measure and went into town for a lovely meal.







Cenotes by Brett

There is something a little bit special about diving underground. Whether it’s in and out of a broken reef, swimming through a well in a quarry or actually in caverns and caves it does make the heart beat a little faster the first time you look and realise safety is not in a direct line straight up!

We did our cenote diving during the second week of our Mexico expedition, this time based out of Playa del Carmen. Each morning we’d head out from the hotel, along the highway until we got to some secluded dirt track which just seemed to disappear into the jungle. The different cenote sites all looked surprisingly similar on the surface, essentially just a clear area, with parking between the trees, sometimes some tables for kit and maybe even somewhere to get a drink and some food.

The diving itself was actually cavern diving as we never went more than around 30 metres from an exit to the surface and much of our dive was conducted at around 10 metres or less.  This made our buoyancy and trim really important but also gave us some spectacular photos of the light shining down into the caverns in every colour imaginable, from bright white through to deep red.

Our guides lead us, single file, through stalactites and stalagmites and dipping under and over haloclines, occasionally with temperatures of 10 degrees difference. We surfaced into some spectacular caves, where tree roots had pierced the rock above and hung down to drink from the cavern waters.  Bats got quite perturbed by our lights and in some areas we came across entire roof collapses allowing us to see the jungle above.

We dived caverns called the Dos Ojos (Two Eyes), Chac Mool, Kukulkan, Ponderosa (yes just like Bonanza) and the Tajma Ha and although we were never that far from the surface at times it felt like we were the first ones to ever see these spaces. The other surprising thing was how different they all looked. One might have great clear cathedral-like caverns, another had stunning light beams. This one had thick vegetation on the water giving it an orange or red glow while that one twisted and turned through tunnels and channels.

 I know that this type of diving isn’t for everyone, some find it sterile and absent of life, others get fixated on the ceiling above but I think everyone enjoyed the experience of doing it.  There are some who will continue to dive underground and see just how far they can get and others who will look back and think ‘not a chance, never again’. But for all that, no one who did this trip will ever forget it.

Thanks Jill and Ken for a fantastic trip and a host of memories.







Monday, 1 September 2014

BBSAC BBQ - 30th August 2014

16 club members and partners gathered in Maggie's garden and pub in Bexleyheath for this year's barbecue. Once again Alex did a great job with the food. The gathering continued well beyond sunset. Thanks, Maggie, for having us.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

St Abbs and The Farnes - 23rd-26th August 2014

by Jane

For the August Bank holiday, it was a four day trip to St Abbs and the Farnes, all of 30 miles apart but in different countries, for some relatively easy diving.

For me, it all started at about 6.00 am on the Friday, when Teresa picked me up, helped load my gear, and we set off through London, missing the worst of the rush hour traffic, arriving at our accommodation in nearby Eyemouth by mid afternoon. At which point we found that our boat (MV Shore Diver) was temporarily out of commission, with a duff engine. Fortunately, our skipper (Paul Crowe) had sorted us out a boat for the following day.  In the meantime, we fed the seals in Eyemouth Harbour and then ourselves, with a gentle meander back up the hill to our accommodation.

The forecast for the weekend was a little on the blowy side (primarily south easterly), but there are sufficient sheltered scenic sites, so that although it was a bit of a bumpy ride there and back again, the sites themselves where fairly smooth. This did, however, put the kybosh on the anticipated wreck diving on the Glanmire.

Saturday was the earliest of the starts we had at St Abbs – a small fishing village in South East Scotland, St Abbs Head being the point at which the coast of SE Scotland turns west into the Firth of Forth, and on good days you can see (and dive) Bass Rock. On this day, we were with Pete Gibson, on his boat Stingray. And a new experience for us all on loading the boats. The harbour, as with so many in the UK, is virtually dry at low tide, and there are no steps in the harbour, just the usual ladders recessed into the harbour wall. To load the boat therefore there were a couple of small derricks with ropes on which to fasten kit, and then carefully lowered on to the boat. We picked up the process quite quickly, and with people at both ends of the rope loading and unloading was faster than might have initially been thought. It also helped once the tide came in as there was less distance for everything to travel.

St Abbs is a marine reserve, with only the local fisherman in day boats being able to take anything. This means that marine life is quite prolific.  

All the dives were in the vicinity of St Abbs Head and varied between about 15 and 25 metres. The visibility was good by the standards of the usual south coast dives that we usually undertake. However, it was clear that the about 10 metre vis was considered quite poor by the locals as they kept apologising for it. 

As we were pretty much confined to the same sites, the flora and fauna were much the same throughout. While there were the familiar lobster and crab, these were by the score, particularly the lobster. Carpets of brittle stars, plus sunstars and other starfish were found. In addition to different sorts of anemone - dahlia, plumose, crabs edible and velvet, others saw wolf fish and even a conger.

Sunday was overshadowed by hearing that a diver from another boat had been lost. All the divers about to set off, including us, were asked to dive the site where he had been in case we could find him. When we arrived at the site the RNLI were already there, as were several fishing boats as well as the dive boats, and the air sea rescue helicopter joined in, unfortunately he was not found. From the little information we had though it would appear that he and his buddy had separated early in the dive and then continued their respective dives (which apparently was common practice for these two people) – which is a lesson to us all to ensure that on separation we surface promptly.

Monday the wind came up sufficiently so the planned 30 metre dive on the Glanmire didn’t happen, but a sheltered one by Pettico Wick and the other side of cove did. The swell made it too difficult to dive in the more open sea.

A bumby ride there and back, but quite calm once within the cove. A pleasant picturesque dive, with similar things that we had already seen – lots of lobster and an octopus. I spotted a multi tasking male! (crab), fighting another, presumably male, crab whilst mounted on a female crab waiting for her to moult before having his wicked way.

Tuesday, it was off to the Farnes, all of thirty miles down the road. We arrived promptly at Seahouses. There were several other boats going out, including one that seemed to be full of underwater scooters, perhaps they were going to try and keep up with the seals!

The first dive was very shallow, so shallow that Andy’s computer didn’t register that we were underwater, albeit at less than 2 metres.  We were supposed wait for the seals came to us, while we swayed with the kelp. They did eventually, but only two or three, and then very fleetingly, so we moved somewhere a bit deeper 6-7 metres and a few more came and investigated. While we were waiting we spotted a few crab, not many fish of any size, the odd sea urchin etc. After about an hour of this we surfaced. Had a bite to eat and went back in at another nearby outcrop of rock, which the seals frequented.

We then slid back to the depths of about 20m and swam partly round the island and back at about 12m, a few shrimp and crab were the main invertebrates on display as well as lobster, until the seals joined us particularly on the swim back where they decided to put on quite a display especially once we’d stopped and were considering surfacing. When an especially playful couple decide to investigate us and play with our fins, it became a shame to finish the dive, but it was captivating watching their dexterity so intimately.

Then back to Seahouses for the long drive home.

We were well looked after by the various skippers, and it was pleasing to find that they thought we were a good bunch, including the feedback from  Seahouses “Toby said that you guys were one of the best crowds he has had for a long time, and for my brother to say something says a lot, so thank you".









Monday, 11 August 2014

Brighton - 9th August 2014

Ex-hurricane Bertha brought some challenging winds to the south coast this weekend, and Steve (skipper of Channel Diver) queried whether we actually wanted to dive today. As we’d already made the effort of an early start and had travelled down to Brighton for a 7am load-in, we decided to give it a go, and the 9 of us (Colin and Jörn sadly couldn’t make it today) dived the SS Pentrych, a large cargo ship torpedoed and sunk in 1918.

Teresa and Sally dived together, Frank, Grant and Ken formed a trio, Brett dived with Ishka, and Daniel dived with Victor. There was plenty of wildlife on the wreck – tonnes of shoaling fish, a few crabs and congers, one massive lobster, another beautiful lobster that posed for photos back on the boat later on, and blennies.

Water temperature was 19 degrees C. Visibility was 2 or 3 metres. Depths of around 22 metres were reached.

With the winds getting stronger, Steve canned the second dive and we returned to harbour before 1pm. Seasickness had affected some of us, but the sun shone and the winds were pleasantly warm. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Buckland Lake - 3rd August 2014

Buckland Lake, where the club has done much of its open water training over the last few years, has re-opened following last year’s fire which resulted in the closure of Buckland Dive Centre. The dive site is now being operated by Janine and Tony of Southern Scuba ( http://sscuba.co.uk/ ). 10 of us went over for a day of training and testing kit, on a sunny Sunday in August.

The dive site opens at 10am on Sundays, however the gates were already open at 9.30am and a few carloads of divers had arrived before we did. The very helpful Chloe of Southern Scuba was in charge today, and sorted out some of us with hired kit, cylinders, tea and coffee. Entry is £10 per diver, and includes parking and hot drinks. The kitting-up area (previously vulnerable to flooding) has been fixed and there was enough space for the 20 or so divers there today. There is currently no compressor on site, however full cylinders can be provided at a cost of £10 for the first, and £5 for each thereafter. Hired kit seemed to be new and of a decent quality. Hired cylinders and kit needs to be booked in advance (preferably by the Thursday before your weekend visit).

Vu was our sole Ocean Diver student today – he did well with his first taste of UK visibility and temperatures, and completed open water dive 001 with Ken. Of the Sports Diver students, Ishka and Daniel were instructed by Brett, while Richard (from Hellfins) and Jörn went in with Victor. Jane and Ed were testing kit, and did just the one dive.

Visibility was pretty bad at around a metre, but we persevered. The water was a pleasant 23 degrees C at the surface, but as low as 13 degrees at 10 metres, with a dramatic thermocline at 5 metres. The lake’s underwater attractions and facilities (including several platforms and wrecks) are still present and correct, while the resident shark oversaw today’s action from its dry dock.

Divers generally behaved themselves today, and very few official reprimands were issued – these related to Ishka attempting to impersonate a doctor (probably illegal), and Vu smiling too much.

This visit to Buckland was productive in terms of signing off Sports Diver training. Ishka and Jörn completed SO2 and SO4, Richard completed SO4 (as well as going over SO2 which he’d already had signed off), parts of SO5 were done, and Daniel did a last few things (compass navigation etc) to enable him to finally qualify as a Sports Diver. Congratulations, Daniel!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Weymouth - 12th-13th July 2014

by Pat

Weymouth has been a regular fixture on the club calendar for many years and we had our first of this year’s two trips on 12th-13th July 2014, diving from the RW TWO ( www.rw-two.co.uk ), a large cat with plenty of room for twelve divers.

Woody the skipper was in good form as always and after finding out we wanted to do some different sites came up with a good programme for the weekend.

The weather was calm and sunny on both days, with a nice breeze on Sunday morning.

On Saturday we dived the Frogner in 36m, a large freighter that was a victim of WW1, broken up a bit but with plenty to explore and packed with life. We followed this up in the afternoon with the Gertrude in 18m off Chesil Cove which the club has not dived for many years. The Gertrude is a small wreck often thought of as a novice dive but the bonus is you can drift across several small wrecks in the cove in one dive scattered amongst the boulders. There is plenty of life including cuttlefish. 

On Sunday we did the Binnendijk at 27m in the morning with another boatful of divers on it. However, once you got out of the debris visibility wasn’t bad.  It is largely broken up but with some odd blocks of structures including the entire bow section and 2 large boilers.  In the afternoon it was a drift on Lulworth Banks to pick up a few scallops to go with the lobsters and crabs for those lucky enough catch them.

Overall a great weekend. Joe was lucky enough to find a torch in working order, unfortunately it was not one of the two lost by Chris but it was still nice! Next year we might need to check schedules though, as with the seafood festival on the quayside was packed with people - loading the cars was interesting.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Eastbourne – 28th June 2014

Diving from Eastbourne on the boat Our W, crewed by Dave and Sylvia, is something of a doddle. Parking is free, there’s easy access to the pontoon, and Our W has plenty of space and a compressor. Today’s very civilised load-in time of 9.45am, and good weather, made the day even more pleasant.

With 11 of us diving, we did what Dave referred to as “The Rio” (NB – see the internet for discussion about this large wreck’s identity) at about 12.30pm, reaching depths of around 27 metres. Lots of crabs and fish, including dozens of tompot blennies. Poor visibility (around 2 metres), but still plenty to see. Water temperature was 16 degrees C at its lowest. The second dive was the SS Roecliffe (previously identified as the SS Umba, again according to the internet).
We were all packed up and back on shore by 5pm. Some stopped for a post-dive drink at the Waterfront at Sovereign Harbour, others sped off to Brighton for further revelling.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Shoreham – 21st June 2014

2 dives today, from the boat Buccaneer. The second dive was "Little Trawler", a small upright wreck in 18 or 20m, which seemed like an ideal dive for Ocean Diver trainees.

Ken: “It was pleasant and lovely”.

Lee: “Very pleasant”.

Pat re: Little Trawler: “Thoroughly enjoyable dive, large enough to get out of the current, and shallow so plenty of time even for a novice”.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Bermondsey BSAC 42 committee meeting – 11th June 2014

Present: Pat, Ross, Ken, Victor

Matters agreed:

  • To accept Maggie's kind offer of hosting the summer barbecue at her house.
  • To send out the Chair's bulletin.

Lymington – 1st June 2014

After 2 dives in Swanage the day before, and a slow drive eastwards to Lymington, us divers were ready for the pub, and the Thomas Tripp PH proved perfect. Good grub, quiet room for diners, good beer etc.

The following morning 11 divers met at 10.30am in the Royal Lymington Yacht Club car park (£8 all-day parking, or free on the nearby streets to the west). Once the throng of sailing tykes had hauled their optimists into the water, we loaded Wight Spirit (skipper: Dave) and set off for the SS Mendi. Dave warned us about the visibility at that site, but we’d organised this trip around a visit to this particular wreck, and so wanted to stick to the plan. Some of us had read up on the tragic story of this wreck beforehand (see: http://www.wessexarch.co.uk/projects/marine/eh/ssmendi/index.php ). As this was a deeper dive (40m to the sea floor) than the club normally organises, we’d all logged detailed dive plans with today’s Dive Manager (Brett).

And yes, the viz was pretty awful at less than 1 metre. Going down the shot line, at 21 metres it was already stygian enough for Victor to can the dive. Others at least made it to the wreck for a respectful look around this war grave. Elaine and Brett saw congers, lobster and crab during a decent 29 minute dive. Frank and Alan unintentionally entered the wreck (easy to do in such bad viz) and after a sobering few minutes found their way out by following their bubbles. Ken and Ian went techy and did 57 minutes. Elaine brought up an edible crab which proved to be a little soft and had to be put back.

The second dive – the SS War Knight – was closer to the Isle of Wight shore. Visibility was very bad here, too, such that although all 10 of us reached the wreck, most returned to the surface with unloggable dive times of 6, 9, 12 and 14 minutes. Alan and Frank managed 38 minutes down there, and Brett – diving solo for most of his dive – did 46 minutes.

Opinions on this trip varied. The bad viz generated disappointment, with Ed saying it was the worst day dive he’d ever done (Ed’s been diving 28 years). There were, however, positives. The weather was OK. The trip gave newer divers a chance to do some proper gas planning and depth progression. Others said they would return to dive this wreck again in better viz. And thanks to thorough dive planning, nobody got bendy on the Mendi.

Swanage – 31st May 2014


To make a weekend of the 1-day Lymington trip, the club organised an optional Swanage add-on. 4 of us (Andy, Chris, Brett and Victor) signed up, doing the Valentine Tanks dive at midday and the Old Harry drift at 3pm. Both dives were from the boat Skua.

Arriving just before 10am meant there was no space for our vehicles on the pier, so we parked in the middle car park up the hill (paying £8 for the day), and carried our kit down.

Visibility was poor on both dives, but we saw a very large berried lobster on the Valentine Tanks, and 2 thornback rays on the incredibly fast drift dive.

Plymouth – 24th-26th May 2014

For the late May bank holiday weekend the club went to Plymouth for 3 days of diving with Mountbatten Dive Charter. Our skippers were Steve and Tony, with whom the club had dived back in 2011, and the boat was Explorer. As part of the all-in package, we stayed at the Mountbatten B&B (clean, good showers, good breakfasts), overflowing into the Lakeview B&B down the road. Fills were done at In Deep (very close to the Mountbatten Watersports Centre pontoon), where Brett had set up an account on Friday afternoon. Victor was Dive Manager.

Saturday

The 8.30am start suddenly became a tad rushed when we were informed that the ebbing tide meant the boat had to move off the pontoon pronto. All aboard (except Lee who was coming down that day, and Teresa who had got to Plymouth very late the night before), we set off, only to find Clive’s blue box was still ashore. Once this was retrieved, we were off to dive the Scylla, a frigate deliberately sunk for divers and scientists in 2004. 10 years on, it has a good coverage of plumose anemone and other life, and made a good first dive of this trip. Visibility wasn’t too bad at 6 metres. Depths of around 24 metres were reached, and the water was 13 degrees C. The second dive of the day was the wreck of the SS James Eagan Layne, a massive liberty ship where we found and photographed critters including a beautiful purple nudibranch (flabellina somethingsomething) and had similarly decent visibility. Some of the group had dived both these sites before, some hadn’t.

That evening we ate at the Glassblowing House, having pre-booked. Good grub. Most of us got there and back via the Mountbatten-Barbican ferry. 

 Sunday

A brisk wind limited the sites we could visit today, so – with Clive’s blue box definitely on board – we set off, and went with the skipper’s suggestion of doing Pier Cellars on the lee side of the Rame peninsula, close to the villages of Kingsand and Cawsand. This was a scenic dive with a fair amount of wildlife (very large jellyfish at the start, dogfish etc) and an interesting underwater landscape to depths of around 13 metres. No second dive today, due to a battery problem with the boat’s lift, which was fixed that evening. That afternoon most of us went to the National Marine Aquarium (some catching the dive show at 2pm, which was quite entertaining), eating on the way at Cap’n Jaspers. Later on, 10 of us went for a rather decent feed at the Boringdon Arms, where Clidive also happened to be meeting.

Monday

So we could finish reasonably early and avoid the worst of the bank holiday traffic, we chose to dive 2 sites not far out of Plymouth on the last day of this trip. Mewstone Ledges, another scenic dive, was our first destination, where a large cuckoo wrasse had an experimental nibble (or a brief suck, more like) on a diver’s wiggly finger. The second dive was the Glen Strathallen, a trawler whose engine is now on display at the Science Museum. We were informed that winter storms had exposed a lot more metal, and some of the group confirmed it was now a very different dive to the one they’d done a few years ago.

The journey home to London, although somewhat wet, was easy enough. Suggested car game for divers travelling back from the southwest: go through the A to Z of types of boats (we got stuck on Q, X and Z).

Dive Leader training, Stoney Cove - 19th May 2014

Another early start, with 6 of us taking a day off work to get to Stoney Cove for its 8.30am opening. The club hadn’t been to this dive site for a while, largely due to nearer lakes (Holborough, Buckland and Divers Cove) offering adequate conditions for Ocean Diver and Sports Diver training. For Dive Leader lessons DO1, DO2, DO3, DO4, DO6 and DO7, however, we needed depth, hence the trip up to Leicestershire. Instructors were Brett, Kim and Steve, students were Grant, Victor and Chris. Entry to Stoney Cove now costs £18 per non-member diver for the day. The place was thankfully fairly quiet, it being a Monday morning.

The sun beat down on us as we kitted up in the car park, so it was a relief to get in the water (8 to 12 degrees C) at 9.41am. Controlled buoyant lifts, mask clearance, DV retrieval etc were completed before divers went into buddy pairs for a bimble, visiting the Stanegarth, the Nautilus and the pumphouse. The first dive lasted 45 minutes, and reached depths of over 20 metres. The second, 59 minute dive at 12.41pm reached similar depths, covered dive leading, CBL (again), air share ascents, mid-water DSMB deployment, and a shot lift. Much hilarity ensued as students later attempted solo lifts of casualties out of the water, up the concrete ramp. Brett assured us that this exercise was indeed part of the Dive Leader syllabus, and had not been added in for his own amusement.
 

Exercises done, bimbling around Stoney Cove was quite enjoyable. Brett got some good pictures of the resident pike and perch, helped by the good visibility and direct sunlight pouring into the water. We left the site at around 3.30pm after lunch and signing of qualification records in Nemos.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Swanage - 18th May 2014

An early start for 2 of us, and despite arriving at 7.20am (20 mins after the gates opened), Frank and Victor were able to secure a good space on Swanage pier, which cost us £13.50 (1 vehicle plus 2 divers). Sally and Clive had come down to Swanage the night before. After a second breakfast, 3 of us boarded Spike, along with a solo diver and Clive who wasn’t diving and who helped out and completed log sheets. Other divers booked onto that boat didn’t show, so we had plenty of space.

First dive of the day was the wreck of the Fleur de Lys, not far out of Swanage. Victor deployed his DSMB, which turned out to be not properly secured to his reel. Oops. Luckily the skipper retrieved the runaway sausage on the surface. Frank then deployed successfully, and we continued with a short drift dive, seeing a thornback ray and clocking up 44 minutes underwater. Visibility wasn’t great, but it was an easy dive at a maximum depth of 13 metres. Water temperature was 13 degrees C.

After fish and chips (or – for one of us – moulded-mushy-peas-deep-fried-on-a-stick and chips), and double checking to see if Kaffee und Kuchen was open (it wasn’t, dammit), Frank and Victor did a quick 21 minute dive under the pier. This was the most interesting dive of the day in terms of actually seeing stuff – we came across a pipefish, a cuckoo wrasse and other fish, and the sun illuminated the shallow waters (we reached heady depths of 3.4 metres).

For the Old Harry drift dive in the afternoon we had the boat (Spike, again) to ourselves. Not much to see on this dive – Victor saw 1 fish, nothing else. 35 minute dive, 13.8 metres depth.

Despite the poor visibility, this was a good day trip with fine weather (sunny and warm, with relatively flat seas). Swanage offers easy diving and a minimum-hassle means of getting some early-season sea dives done.

Bermondsey BSAC committee meeting - 13th May 2014

In attendance: Pat, Brett, Ken, Teresa, Ross, Victor

2014 and 2015 dive list

  • Falmouth trip over recent Easter bank holiday was a success and the club didn’t have to cover the 2 unfilled spaces.
  • Noted that 2 early trips this year (Brighton and Shoreham) proved difficult to fill, but in the end did not go ahead due to the weather.
  • Agreed to book fewer day dives in early (pre-Easter) 2015. Club (or its members) can nominate weekends for trips to a specified location, but not make a club booking – instead, individuals would make their own bookings for that trip near to the trip date.
  • This process needn’t have too much structure – it would begin with an individual suggesting a date, checking if a boat is taking individual/buddy pair bookings, and then proposing the day dive to the rest of the club.
  • Club can facilitate this process by updating the dive list more quickly and circulating it more often. Club website can be updated with links and contact details for the dive boats we often use. Emails from members wishing to propose a day dive can be circulated by the Secretary.
  • Club trips will be booked in the Easter to September period.
  • The next few club dives in 2014 are well subscribed, but dives later in summer are not yet. Agreed to tout these to the club, with a reminder that unfilled spaces cost the club money.
  • 2 trips (Eastbourne and Weymouth) clash with the Mexico trip. There may be people who intend to join these 2 trips but haven’t got round to putting their names down yet, so both trips will be touted again.
  • The Brighton trip in August will be touted until the end of June.
  • Noted that minimum diver qualifications and depth limits will prevent some members from signing up, while deeper dives may be attractive to others. Other clubs (e.g., Hellfins) have many Ocean Divers wanting to dive, and our trips for more experienced divers could be filled by divers from other clubs. Brett will speak with contacts in other clubs, but won’t tout dives until our own members have been given more opportunity to sign up.
  • Wittering, Selsey, Portsmouth and Dover were suggested as day dives next year. Dive Leader trainees could organise trips to these destinations.
  • Brighton, Shoreham and Eastbourne boats will be used again in 2015.
  • Scubafest was not so good this year, but might be better next year should BSAC have more control. Agreed to reserve May 2nd-4th for a potential Scubafest trip in 2015.
  • Agreed to organise club trips for Easter and late spring bank holiday weekend.
  • A trip abroad was suggested for Easter – possibly the Red Sea or Gozo. Agreed to establish numbers by August, obtain quotes from Blue O2 etc, then tout to the club.
  • Other ideas discussed: Pembrokeshire, week-long liveaboard to Dieppe, Scilly Isles, Weymouth, Falmouth, Ireland, Truk, Coron, Sardinia, Poole, Swanage (unrestricted numbers, so suitable for August when many may be away), Lewis, Oban and Mull. Ken to look into possibility of borrowing another club’s RIB for a Lewis trip.
  • Previously-suggested trips to Shetland Isles, Crimea and Mozambique will not be happening in 2015.
  • Falmouth already booked for 2015 August bank holiday weekend.
  • Various provisional dates were added to the 2015 calendar. Victor and others to start making enquiries and bookings.

Club fees

  • The club’s abated rate (£25 for 2 people at the same address) was discussed. BSAC offer a similar abated rate, as only 1 magazine needs to be sent to that address, however the club has no such reason for providing a discounted membership. To be discussed at the AGM, possibly with a motion to scrap or reduce the discount.

Dive costs

  • Cost per day per diver to remain at £45 this year (even if cost is slightly less or more). To be reviewed at AGM.

Next year’s committee

  • Club members who are interested in being on committee next year could be invited to shadow current committee members. A new publicity officer might be recruited this way.

Child and vulnerable adult protection

  • BSAC’s new policy hasn’t been published yet.
  • All instructors will need Disclosure and Barring Service checks once the new policy comes into force.
  • Club already has instructors with DBS clearances, 2 more are in process.

Recruitment of new members

  • Pat – in Chair’s bulletin – to encourage members to bring family and friends to the club.
  • Tall Ships Regatta – Pat to look into possibility of having a stall. NB – clashes with Mexico trip.
  • Dive list could be moved to a more prominent part of the club’s website.
  • Google searches for “diving Surrey Quays” don’t bring the club up at the top of the list, however it was noted that companies pay search engines for higher billing.
  • Recruitment sub-committee suggested, possibly to meet at 8pm one Wednesday. Pat to mention in Chair’s bulletin.
  • Seven Islands still have the club’s noticeboard. Manager is still trying to find out what happened to it.
  • Another call-out to be made for website content.

Risk assessment

  • Seven Islands have asked for a risk assessment. Brett has prepared one for the New Cross branch, and will do another for us.

Club summer social

  • Call-out to be included in Chair’s bulletin.

Pool use

  • Chair’s bulletin to encourage use for swimming, practice, testing kit etc.
  • Lifesaving course later on this year will involve pool use over several weeks.
  • Brett to look into another pool Olympics.

Student project

  • Students never got back to Ken. Assume this is not happening.

Club kit

  • Club cylinders are in test. Kit doesn’t need servicing this season.
  • Kevin has donated an aluminium cylinder to the club.
  • 2 sets of regs have been missing since Christmas.

Club’s 60th birthday

  • Suggested we start thinking of ideas.
  • Past members should be involved and invited. Dave remains in contact with some.